NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher sounded like a broken record most of this season.

His young Titans liked each other and loved working hard. He enjoyed coaching them, and yes, he thought they could surprise people. After an 0-5 start, Fisher sounded like an optimist trying to hide his team’s flaws.

Turns out he was right.

After a six-game winning streak, the Titans are 8-7 and the NFL’s second-hottest team behind San Diego. Make the playoffs, and they’ll become the first team to do so after a 0-5 start.

“He’s done a great job,” New England coach Bill Belichick said.

Turnarounds are nothing new for Fisher. His 2002 Titans started 1-4 before winning 10 of 11 to reach the AFC championship, where they lost to Oakland.

That was a veteran group led by Steve McNair and Eddie George. This is a rebuilding franchise that won nine combined games in the last two seasons with 37 players in their third NFL season or less. The offense, led by rookie quarterback Vince Young, features six starters in their first or second season.

“We’ve got a philosophy here that we stick to and we believe in, and it’s worked in the past,” Fisher said. “We just stayed the course, and it worked out.”

That’s why owner Bud Adams wants to extend Fisher’s contract at season’s end.

Receiver Drew Bennett said Fisher has remained the same through his six seasons, never changing his coaching demeanor no matter the record or time of the season.

“It’s very impressive,” he said. “I’ve talked to other guys on other teams who talk about coming back when you lose a tough one bright and early. Coach Fisher doesn’t do that. I think Coach Fisher recognizes really what players want, what they need and at the same time, what they need to do better.”

Center Kevin Mawae has yet to see Fisher frustrated or overly excited, even after rallying to a 24-21 win against the New York Giants after being down 21-0 in the final 10 minutes.

“The locker room is a reflection of the head coach,” he said. “That speaks well for Jeff the way we’ve stuck in after an 0-5 start to come out to a position we’re in now. It’s a testament to guys in the locker room, but it’s a testament to how the coach has held things together,” Mawae said.

Fisher also administered a dose of discipline to a team that has had its share of drama this season.

After going 4-12 in 2005, Fisher announced a zero-tolerance policy. He enforced it in the preseason by benching rookie LenDale White for spitting on a teammate in practice and defensive tackle Randy Starks after an argument with his then-fiancee for a game each.

He threatened not to welcome back defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth from his five-game NFL suspension for stomping on the unprotected head of Dallas center Andre Gurode, and made anger management counseling a key to the tackle’s return.

Fisher then suspended cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones for one game after he was charged with misdemeanor assault for spitting on a woman at a nightclub.

But during the 0-5 start, Fisher made only two key roster moves. He replaced Chris Brown with Travis Henry as his starting running back and started Young in the fourth game.

And he kept pointing out how his Titans continued to improve.

Running the ball was Fisher’s approach when he had George, the team’s all-time leading rusher, and that approach has helped the Titans most in this streak. They are averaging 163.5 yards rushing, third in the NFL, in the past 12 games.

Fisher, co-chairman of the league’s competition committee, also isn’t afraid to gamble. That’s what linebacker David Thornton, one of the six veteran free agents signed this offseason, liked most when he left Indianapolis.

“A lot of coaches probably wouldn’t make some of the decisions he makes,” Thornton said.

The coach has worked Jones into a variety of offensive plays to get a key playmaker on the field, and he tricked Colts coach Tony Dungy into using his last timeout by threatening to punt before letting Rob Bironas attempt a 60-yard field goal that beat Indy 20-17 on Dec. 3.

Fisher personally rates this season pretty high overall.

“The nucleus on this team is going to be the nucleus of this team for years to come. We’ll be able to look back and say we’ve pulled through some tough times,” he said. “If we’re ever staring tough times again in the face we’ll be able to refer to it and hopefully pull ourselves through it again.”


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